With Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom, wherein young boys and girls are kidnapped and used as objects of pleasure and torture by four fascist libertines, Pasolini crafts one of the most depraved and controversial films ever made. It comes as no surprise, as Pasolini’s previous work, such as The Canterbury Tales (1972) and The Decameron (1971), attest to his interests in depravity, sexuality, and satire. What makes Salo especially tense and defamatory is the rationalism which Pasolini imparts. Scenes of indecent acts, such as rape and force-feeding, are interspersed by scenes in which the four “villains” hold philosophical conversations about their way of life.
Dom Hemingway, like most crime films, is about vanity. Pride before the fall. Dinner before one’s just desserts. Director Richard Shepard, responsible for the crime caper The Matador, tells this story on a similarly comedic note of that film, favouring buddy-crime antics and brutal violence that is colourfully translated to physical comedy. Near the beginning, when a mechanic’s head is pummelled into the pavement by the titular ruffian, played by a rabid Jude Law, ensuing laughter bleeds over our immediate disgust. That’s how we see Dom for most of the film: an appallingly funny crook.
Doing a football film is far from unheard of. Film’s often boil down the sports to their most exciting moments. Every game in a sports film is the equivalent of a month of highlight reels. The mundanity, the commercials, and the perfunctory time-outs are all stripped away, leaving a lean set of crashes and emotions. Enjoying a football film does not require extensive knowledge of the sport itself. So for a film to directly go after the minutia, its eccentricities, the telecommunication heavy field of team development, and a reliance on not only knowledge, but passion for the sport, is either brave or completely boneheaded. Fittingly, that is kind of a great way to describe Draft Day.
The hunger for good horror storytelling is an insatiable one. There needs to be suspense, a certain amount of gore (if not, all out), and a great driving device that can be so ridiculous, yet palpable enough to get at the grip of your imagination. Coming into Mike Flanagan’s Oculus, I was already hoping for the scares of Absentia. However, with a bigger budget and well-known actors (hello Amy Pond and Starbuck!), I tend to get kind of wary that the story becomes secondary to filmmakers. I was both pleasantly surprised and maybe a little disappointed. Let me explain.
Some of the best and most disturbing sci-fi films are set on earth itself. Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1959), Planet of the Apes (1968), District 9 (2009), are just a few of the unsettling narratives that use planet earth as their setting. Films like the original Star Wars trilogy used earth bound landscapes and made them seem other worldly, but director Jonathan Glazer uses these specific landscapes in a unique way for his impressively unique sci-fi. Glazer’s new feature is not shy of using the urban landscapes of Glasgow and rural back roads of the Scottish Highlands as the familiar setting for his modern sci-fi alien narrative. The desolate landscapes are mixed with busy cityscapes and the fact that these seem relatively familiar in terms of imagery use is the powerful impact.
The Pastor looks past the camera and starts talking to the hidden documentary crew. They remind him that he’s supposed to pretend they’re not there. He mumbles agreement, half starts a sentence and shuffles off, the edge of a mike accidentally falling into shot. Welcome to the genial and shambolic world of the mockumentary. Populated by amiable buffoons and flush with gentle pokes at otherwise touchy subjects, Jesus People delivers a short-lived but softly amusing experience.
The eight individuals in total credited for Frankie & Alice under story and screenplay make terribly tempting—too tempting for many, no doubt—the allure of an arguably insensitive joke. But to suggest the movie might share the dissociative identity disorder of its subject is to mistakenly afford each of the films it looks likely to become at any given moment would have any identity of its own. As directed by television mainstay Geoffrey Sax—last seen on the big screen with the ill-fated Alex Rider outing Stormbreaker—Frankie & Alice, the true-life tale of a dancer beset by multiple personality disorder, is a film that wouldn’t know personality if it slapped it in the face. By the end credits’ arrival, it’s all you can do to wish it would.
I am a twentysomething, white, middle class, American male with depressive tendencies and artistic aspirations, which is a convoluted way of saying that I’m a big fan of The National, a band that captures the joys of feeling down like few else can. It was with a mixture of trepidation and excitement then that I approached the new film Mistaken for Strangers, a documentary made about the band by lead singer Matt Berninger’s younger brother Tom. While the film is marketed as a music documentary about an indie rock stalwart, though, the reality is that Mistaken for Strangers feels more like a deeply personal essay than a concert film – a trait that mostly works to its advantage.
For most of human history, it wasn’t all that hard to find the “end of the world,” to fall out of society and venture to a place where you would never have to see other people again. Society’s grip on any individual was fairly weak—if you didn’t like the rules, it wasn’t hard to leave the game behind entirely. Yet over the past century or so, the world has shrunk, even as society and its influence have grown. These minute, remote locations, these archipelagos of isolation and independence, have grown vanishingly small, until they threaten to disappear entirely.
“I’m reaching for the bottom” chirp the peppy pop lyrics of the song over which 10 Rules for Sleeping Around’s opening credits unfold, and oh what an apt sentiment it is. Leslie Greif’s soi-disant sex comedy reaches for the bottom and doesn’t stop there, sinking beneath the surface to new chthonic depths of cinematic depravity. “I have standards,” an affronted character at one point insists, his accuser retorting “about as low as a limbo stick”. But limbo’s the game of how low can you go, and where matters of taste are concerned few can claim the kind of flexibility with which this film slips under the bar. “You just have to scream” goes another of the opening lyrics; reader, dear reader, you really do.